Chinchilla surgery

Pets need shots to avoid getting sick. But what about chinchillas? Do chinchillas need shots, and if so, which shots do they need? If chinchillas don’t need shots, why not?

Do chinchillas need shots? They don’t. While other pets need rabies shots, flu shots, or vaccines against distemper, hepatitis and herpes your chinchilla doesn’t need any. They are neither needed for your pet’s health nor because they’re required by law. You can still ask a vet to administer them, but they will likely tell you there’s no point. This doesn’t mean your chinchilla can’t get sick, though, so you still need to monitor it for signs of ill health and take it to the vet if necessary.

The guide below goes through each of the most common shots—rabies shots, flu shots and so on—describes what they are, and addresses whether chinchillas need them. We’ll then cover why chinchillas don’t need shots, even though they can get sick like any other pet.

Note: this guide is written with a U.S. or U.K. audience in mind. The specific laws in your area may require that your chinchilla has certain shots. As such, you should make sure that keeping an unvaccinated pet is legal where you live.


What Vaccines Do Chinchillas Need?

Chinchillas don’t need to have any vaccines. They are necessary neither for your pet’s health, nor because they are required by the U.S. or U.K. governments. That’s not because vaccines are scary or harmful, just that your pet doesn’t need them for a variety of reasons.

Do Chinchillas Need Rabies Shots?

Can chinchillas get rabies?
It’s practically impossible for a chinchilla to catch rabies, so your pet doesn’t need a rabies shot.

Rabies is a rare, but very serious infection that animals can catch. It affects the brain and nervous system of an infected animal, and is transmitted directly through bites or scratches. While other viruses are unlikely to kill your pet, rabies will kill if left untreated.

It’s found throughout the world, although it has been eliminated in some countries. The United Kingdom got rid of rabies in the early 20th century, but it is still found across the western world, for example in France and the U.S. There is a shot that can be administered to prevent rabies, and it is mandatory for some pets in the United States. However, chinchillas don’t need to have it. Chinchillas can theoretically get rabies, but only one case has ever been recorded. Your pet is therefore safe not to have one.

Do Chinchillas Need Flu Shots?

Influenza is spread by a virus. There are lots of different kinds of influenza, and there are shots against the most common kinds, both for people and for pets. While almost all kinds of flu shot contain only dead/inactive viruses, there are some that contain living viruses. They can cause slight reactions like raised temperature, similar to the flu.

However, while flu shots are administered to other pets like dogs, they aren’t given to chinchillas. Chinchillas can develop respiratory infections, but they can be managed easily if you care for your chinchilla correctly, which is likely why they aren’t required.

Do Chinchillas Need Distemper Shots?

Distemper is yet another virus, and another that affects a wide variety of animals. In dogs, it’s referred to specifically as canine distemper, and it causes all sorts of symptoms: from those like a respiratory infection such as a cough and a runny nose, to digestive issues like diarrhea, and a general high temperature. It can be prevented with shots. Again, though, distemper shots aren’t given to chinchillas.

Do Chinchillas Need Hepatitis Shots?

Hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver. It’s yet another virus, and causes generic symptoms of ill health like diarrhea and lethargy. It has a high rate of mortality, although not as high as rabies; somewhere between 10-30% of animals that contract it will pass away. For other pets, the same shot that prevents distemper also prevents hepatitis, plus a few other conditions like parvovirus and parainfluenza. Your chinchilla doesn’t need this shot.

Do Chinchillas Need Herpes Virus Shots?

Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which can affect many parts of the body. In pets, it typically affects the reproductive organs. It’s more serious in younger pets than older, which is why in dogs, it’s known as ‘fading puppy syndrome’; but if a fully grown dog catches the same virus, it can carry it and spread it, but won’t show any symptoms. No herpes shots are given to chinchillas.

Do Chinchillas Need Lyme Disease Shots?

Lyme disease is a health issue spread by ticks. The tick latches on to suck blood, but as it does, bacteria in its gut travels in the other direction and infects the host. This causes all sorts of symptoms, including fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, stiffness, discomfort, pain and even lameness.

Lyme disease, unlike the other health issues above, is a bacterial rather than a viral infection. In practise, that means it’s treated in a different way. There is a shot that can be administered for it, although it isn’t as effective as the others (at roughly 60-80% effectiveness). While this shot is sometimes administered to other pets, it isn’t given to chinchillas.

Why Don’t Chinchillas Need Shots?

Given how serious these conditions are, and the fact that other pets do require shots, why then do chinchillas never have them? Surely it would be better for their health if they did?

Because Chinchillas Live in Cages

Can chinchillas catch rabies?
How could a chinchilla catch rabies if it’s kept in a cage, where it could never encounter an animal that has the disease?

The core reason why pet chinchillas don’t need vaccines/shots is that they live in cages. While cages do curtail an animal’s freedom, they do also mean it’s less likely to get sick. That’s because it’s almost impossible for it to encounter any animals infected by one of the viral conditions above.

Take rabies, for example. Rabies is typically spread by wild animals that bite or scratch pets allowed outdoors. How is an infected bat, skunk, cat or dog going to bite your chinchilla? It would first have to get into your house, and then into your chinchilla’s cage. Not likely. It’s almost like how your chinchilla is unlikely to get hit by a car—if it’s not outside, how could that even happen?

While rabies is the prime example, the same applies to other health issues too. If your chinchilla never encounters a tick, how can it get lyme disease? If your chinchilla never meets a dog with hepatitis, how can it catch the virus that causes the condition?

Because Chinchillas Live in Small Groups

Another reason why your chinchilla doesn’t need shots is that it likely lives on its own, or at most, as part of a pair. The fewer chinchillas there are in the cage, the less likely it is that one of them will get sick. That’s because chinchillas spread disease to each other as well as catching it from other animals.

All that being said, don’t assume that your pet chinchilla can’t get sick. Chinchillas can get sick, just like other animals. You still have to monitor your pet for signs of ill health, and if it displays any, you should take it to the vet as soon as possible.

If you are interested in getting your pet vaccinated even though it doesn’t strictly need to be, there’s nothing wrong with that. Talk with your vet about getting your pet shots. While they will likely tell you that your pet doesn’t need them, you can ask for them anyway.

Aside from that, follow basic care guidelines for your pet. Treat it well, feed it properly, and don’t let it out of the cage when there are other pets around. Don’t let it outside, and monitor it for any symptoms of poor health; when you spot any, take it to the vet. If you do that, and do it correctly, your pet will likely live to a ripe old age.


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